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Old 08.05.2011, 23:16
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Meaning of the word "kantonal"

Hi folks,

I recently met a local who made this statement: "Die Schweizer sind sehr kantonal." I'm not quite sure how to understand this, is this a statement about the regional solidarity? does it have a cultural implication when used in a non-political context?

Context: The swiss lady spent many years abroad and was telling me that she had trouble adjusting back to local life when she returned. I can't quite remember what prompted her to make that statement though...

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Old 08.05.2011, 23:22
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Re: Meaning of the word "kantonal"

CH is a federation.

As such all the states are separate, like the US, but the scale is much smaller. Despite this smaller scaler, the CH remain routed in the roots, i.e. the kanton they come from.

A Basler brought up in Zurich will remain a Basler to the day s/he dies. A Luzerner living in Zug will remain a Luzerner, etc.

Hence, they remain fixed on their origin and focused on their kanton.

My 5 raps, anyway.
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Old 08.05.2011, 23:30
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Re: Meaning of the word "kantonal"

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CH is a federation.

As such all the states are separate, like the US, but the scale is much smaller. Despite this smaller scaler, the CH remain routed in the roots, i.e. the kanton they come from.

A Basler brought up in Zurich will remain a Basler to the day s/he dies. A Luzerner living in Zug will remain a Luzerner, etc.

Hence, they remain fixed on their origin and focused on their kanton.

My 5 raps, anyway.
Thanks for your 5 raps, appreciate it! I do recall now, she was describing that there are regional peculiarities, but peculiar in a way that is very specific to CH, and how each person is very attached to their origins. She did seem to use it in a cultural/behavioural context.
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Old 09.05.2011, 07:29
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Re: Meaning of the word "kantonal"

They say it in our area, too. Meaning, even if you are born in one canton, you might be particularly fond of another, the one you grew up in, now work in, etc. It does not necessarily mean partial to your home canton, but to one canton in general, as opposed to federation (they feel protected by their Commune and Canton who fights for their needs and rights as opposed to Federalists who see common good but might neglect the needs of individual cantons).

Most countries think somewhat federally, if there is such a concept without the actual federation, ie for the good of the nation, republic, etc. rather than regional areas, counties or cantons. Swiss I know are a lot more cantonal, than federal, ie they will feel patriotic to their little community (usually culture, as well, we just talked with friends about the difference between VD and GE, despite the common language, our friends feel a lot more patriotic to their French speaking canton than the neighboring French speaking canton even when it gives them the opportunity to work). Even though there is patriotism, obviously, in larger, federal scale.

But in the courses I took at uni here where CH was somewhat presented from sociological point of view, it was really interesting to be told there isn't really much of the federal, uniting, national identity, hence the stickling to invented positive schemas and modern cliches and believes that media feed and people appreciate (orderly, punctual, efficient, chocolate, yodel, cows...).

I think adding cantonal vs federal concept could be nitpicky, administratively expensive and could explain "chqn pour soi même" that local people often complain about here, but on the other hand it adds a dimension for people to relate to, feel close to, attach to, community based, they know the folks who take care of them, have chance to participate, etc. which is great in situation where people do not trust the federal way of running things. People should feel close to their communities. It's like a safety network, that sometimes in state/country/federal large scale gets lost. I think all countries have the same, though, it is just maybe called regional, not cantonal, but their regions are a lot more gov dependent than here, so might not push for people's issues as much as they are pushed here.

Another thing is the ability to vote and decide differently on issues in different cantons, the actual liberty to do so.

I think if the lady used it negatively, she might relate to maybe small, narrow-minded attitude when you do not see the reason to sacrifice for common good of all the people in the country in the long span, because it somewhat makes you life on a local level a little bit harder, or because you might might be asked for some kind of adjustment (not knowing it is a process happening in the whole world for example, since people often are not as exposed to what is happening elsewhere..). I don't find this particularly Swiss, but the vehemence and obstinacy to protect one's back yard while the community (or federation) needs citizen's TLC, that I find Swiss.
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Last edited by MusicChick; 09.05.2011 at 07:47.
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Old 09.05.2011, 07:57
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Re: Meaning of the word "kantonal"

Provincial. Xenophobic. Patriotic. Strong sense of place. Strong sense of belonging.Jingoistic.

Take your pick.
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Old 09.05.2011, 09:24
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Re: Meaning of the word "kantonal"

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Thanks for your 5 raps, appreciate it! I do recall now, she was describing that there are regional peculiarities, but peculiar in a way that is very specific to CH, and how each person is very attached to their origins. She did seem to use it in a cultural/behavioural context.
My example applies both politically and culturally - driven a lot by the geography of the country - i.e. valleys and mountains.

There's a similar phenomenon in Holland - although they don't have valleys and mountains, they do have lots of canals. In the old days, these acted as effective barriers and dialects sprung up a little like here in CH, as people from one area didn't mingle much with those of an other due to difficulties in getting from place to place.

The net result is isolation of communities/kantons and development of a strong identity.
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Old 09.05.2011, 18:32
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Re: Meaning of the word "kantonal"

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Provincial. Xenophobic. Patriotic. Strong sense of place. Strong sense of belonging. Jingoistic.

Take your pick.
I don't know if your little smiley means you are trying to be funny...

But I don't think feeling strongly for your place of origin necessarily means you are provincial, xenophobic or necessarily patriotic (in the negative sense that you are implying). I have a very strong sense of 'origin' and am non of the above lease of all jingoistic.

I can be proud of my heritage, place of origin without being negative towards yours.
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Old 09.05.2011, 18:40
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Re: Meaning of the word "kantonal"

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I can be proud of my heritage, place of origin without being negative towards yours.
Not....really. Sorry. Nationalism etc always involved a strong sense of the other. There's no way to feel good about something without feeling bad about the other thing. That's just the way we're wired. Kt Zurich can't be awesome without Baselland being evil. Doesn't need to be that extreme, but the principle's there.
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Old 09.05.2011, 18:46
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Re: Meaning of the word "kantonal"

There are more stoic or phlegmatic, less competitive cultures that can tolerate others while loving their own, it does not necessarily mean opposition. But here I do feel competition in some way and not just on cantonal level, people compare.

I think OP asked to have an attitude of a lady who complained about Swiss being too cantonal, though, in that sense it is probably meant negatively. Close minded and not seeing things in an encompassing way. (Although I think not everyone is this way at all, there are so many nice, tolerant, accepting and sharing folks, too, who see the role of federation and support it).
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Old 09.05.2011, 18:50
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Re: Meaning of the word "kantonal"

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Not....really. Sorry. Nationalism etc always involved a strong sense of the other. There's no way to feel good about something without feeling bad about the other thing. That's just the way we're wired. Kt Zurich can't be awesome without Baselland being evil. Doesn't need to be that extreme, but the principle's there.
Um..... No. Both can be equally evil.
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Old 09.05.2011, 19:07
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Re: Meaning of the word "kantonal"

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Um..... No. Both can be equally evil.
If you're from a third place and Nationalistic/Kantonaaaalische, or you are from either and don't care. Being Nationalist or Religious or supporting Arsenal always involved a well developed sense of the other. You can't be an avid supporter of Arsenal but not mind Chelsea and Spurs either.
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Old 09.05.2011, 19:14
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Re: Meaning of the word "kantonal"

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There are more stoic or phlegmatic, less competitive cultures that can tolerate others while loving their own, it does not necessarily mean opposition. But here I do feel competition in some way and not just on cantonal level, people compare.

I think OP asked to have an attitude of a lady who complained about Swiss being too cantonal, though, in that sense it is probably meant negatively. Close minded and not seeing things in an encompassing way. (Although I think not everyone is this way at all, there are so many nice, tolerant, accepting and sharing folks, too, who see the role of federation and support it).
I think the lady I spoke with used the expression with 2 undertones: 1. being kantonal is somewhat idiosyncratic and 2. that the swiss freely admit it, and are perhaps even proud of it.

I agree with Musicchick. Personally, i think being showing solidarity with a place/cause/identity does not have to be exclusive, you can (heaven forbid!) let others join the club.
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